Earthquakes: Waiting for the Big One with Dr. Lucy Jones

Larry sits down with the famous 'Earthquake Lady' to talk about the highly-anticipated catastrophe, the dos and don'ts during an earthquake, & what's in store for the recently retired USGS seismologist. 

By China Magno, Larry King Now

California: where the grass is greener and the sunshine is brighter. According to Dr. Dre, it’s the state that’s “Untouchable like Elliot Ness.” Katy Perry even goes as far as to describe the women of California as “Fine, Fresh, Fierce,” and having it on lock. Unfortunately, there is one thing in California that we do not have on lock and that is tectonic plates. We may have warm summers, mild winters, and dance floors that are never empty, but staying quake-free is not our strong suit. Everyone has an achilles heel.

We recently had the privilege of having Dr. Lucy Jones, an honorable seismologist who has worked with the USGS for 33 years, come by our show and talk to Larry about earthquakes - California’s hottest topic at the moment. If I had a penny for every time someone said to me ‘Do you realize that the big one can happen any minute now?’, then I wouldn’t need anymore pennies (side note: does anyone need pennies?). Considering the growing paranoia and concern about earthquakes, Dr. Lucy Jones couldn’t have been a more perfect guest.

For starters, an earthquake isn’t exactly what you think. As explained by Dr. Lucy Jones, “An earthquake is the sudden slip of one block of rock past another that produces shaking as one of its effects.” So, we technically don’t feel when an earthquake takes place. What we feel is the shaking that’s caused by the movement of the fault. 

Dr. Lucy Jones wasted no time with Larry, walking him through what a 7.8 magnitude earthquake looks like and the devastation it would cause downtown Los Angeles. If I just set off your sympathetic nervous system and you now find yourself in fight or flight mode, I apologize. On the bright side, Dr. Lucy Jones talked about what NOT to do during an earthquake, clearing up common earthquake myths including whether to stand in a doorway, run outside, and/or get under a table. Check out the clip below! 

Dr. Jones also talked about how we really need to re-evaluate our paranoia and concern. According to the seismologist, earthquakes are much less of a risk than hurricanes and snowstorms and we should really be more afraid of death by murder than by earthquakes. Good news, right? Not so fast. 

While we need not be so afraid of earthquakes themselves, we certainly should be afraid of their aftermath. In the clip below,  Dr. Jones maps out the formidable and inevitable conditions that will be in place after a sizable earthquake, which include a lack of electricity, demolished homes, no access to water, and the worst of all, the ensuing bankruptcy. 

"It isn’t about dying,” Dr. Jones warns Larry. “It’s about living and how awful life will be afterwards.”

If you're anything like me, then you might be worrying about the best and worst places you should be when the big one happens. Fortunately, Larry asked Dr. Jones about earthquake kits and the specific items she keeps in her house in case of emergencies. So, the day the San Andreas fault goes, you know where to find me. But for the less fortunate rest of you who were not invited to the party at Dr. Jones's, you can find everything you need to make the perfect disaster kit here, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). 

And word to non-Californians: you're not off the hook. Earthquakes aren't just a California problem: according to the USGS, about half of Americans reside in areas prone to earthquakes, and Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California for the past two years. This incline in earthquake occurrence Dr. Jones says is due to recent fracking activity. 

If you want information on recent earthquake activity – i.e. location and magnitude, on a national level – check out this USGS interactive map for real-time updates. 

After countless publications – including her widely-used 308-page ShakeOut report which laid out the myriad ways a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas fault would devastate Southern California – Dr. Lucy Jones has earned herself the title "the Beyonce of Earthquakes" (thanks, LA Times). And after 33 years of service, she has decided to leave her USGS position. During the interview, Dr. Jones discussed with Larry what she learned from her time with USGS and also shared what's next for her career. 

"I discovered that really helping people understand what I know is going to save lives," Jones said. "That feels like the way to finish out my career.” 

Dr. Lucy Jones plans to achieve that by starting a center to promote the use of science in society and decision making. It was truly an honor and privilege to have Dr. Lucy Jones give us her last interview as a USGS seismologist. 

Although this may be a hard pill to swallow, there is a silver lining to living in an area prone to frequent earthquakes: they tend to be more prepared than states with lower risk. Here in California, both the science community and government have done a lot of work preparing forthe potential earthquake scenario and have focused much of their efforts toward educating the public and providing resources. You can find all the information you need on earthquakes and preparing for the big one at the official USGS website

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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